Ready Player One

Ernie Cline’s Ready Player One deserves to be on everyone’s actual bookshelf. It’s that good.

Here’s a summary of what you learn in chapter one: Imagine Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg becomes an actual trillionare, loses his mind and becomes a recluse, and pledges his entire fortune to whoever can find his video game’s “easter egg”. All this in a world whose physical reality has tanked due to global warming and massive oil shortages.

This book moves at a nice clip and is loaded with jokes about Xyzzy and early Apple computers, and Warcraft. It’ll make a great movie if someone like Alfonso Cuaron on Ron Moore would direct it.

Art & Copy, 2009

Art & Copy is a heinous love letter to the ad industry, which the authors should be (depending on your stance) either ashamed or proud of.

These days, nobody seriously thinks that the ad industry is improperly put upon.  Most of the things that make the Internet a worse place to be —analytics software that tracks your every move, permanent browser cookies, banner ads, pop-ups, pop-unders, and more or less the entire domain trade — is in the service of the ad industry. I’ve used Google’s advertising “content network”. It’s a scam that drained me of money, fattened Google’s profit margins, provided no benefit to anyone, and made some people’s web pages slightly more cluttered.

“Art & Copy” is an honest documentary of a dishonest trade and the disingenuous people that work in it.  Not that they lie: they are straight up about what it is they do.

There are two bright lights among this nest of snakes.  One, too briefly seen, is a billboard installer who has never met any of the people whose work he installs. He is introduced, gets a comment in about working in the same trade as his grandfather, and reappears only at the end, clicking around on his computer. The other is the surfer-hippie chief executive of an agency you’ve surely heard of, who is notable in two ways: one, he is convinced he can influence the world for the better; two, his face appears on a punching bag installed in his office.

We are told that ad creep is consumers’ fault; that advertising that presents itself as information is consumers’ fault; and that there is really no such thing as ethics in the industry. I am fairly sure that the word “ethical” never comes up.

In “Art & Copy” the ad industry got a hagiography it neither needs nor deserves.